The number of unemployed American workers receiving benefits from the government hit the highest level since 1967, when the government began to keep the records.

The U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday that the number of people continuing to claim for unemployment insurance was a seasonally adjusted 4,776,000 in the week ended Jan. 17. That represents an increase of 159,000 from the previous week's revised level of 4,617,000 the department said.

But the total of people receiving jobless benefits nears about 6.5 million. About 1.7 million people receive benefits under an extended jobless compensation program which the Congress authorized last summer and were not included in the report, according to the Associated Press.

Numerous corporations have slashed thousands of jobs in the month of January as they seek to save costs amid the deepening economic crisis. The Associated Press estimates a total of 130,000 layoffs have been announced in January